Spirited Away: 5 Recipes Using Your Favorite Liquors

Is your liquor cabinet looking a little full these days? Instead of drinking all those spirits away, try including them in your home cooking to give it a little extra zing. Spirits can be incorporated into all kinds of dishes: pastas, meats, seafoods, and more. A fair amount of the alcoholic content evaporates during the cooking process, but the distinct flavor of the featured spirit remains in each dish, lending a complex character to your menu.

Try any of these 5 recipes to instill your culinary feats with a taste of your favorite spirits: vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, and gin.

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Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

Vodka sauce is an Italian favorite, consisting of tomato sauce, vodka, Italian herbs, and heavy cream. It has a light, smooth consistency and a pink — almost salmon-like — color. This variety of sauce is most traditionally served with penne pasta. This recipe from Ina Garten of the Food Network yields 4 to 5 servings and takes about 2.5 hours to complete. The alcoholic content burns out of the sauce as it cooks, but the incorporation of vodka enhances and unlocks the delicious flavors of ripe tomato within the sauce. The addition of red pepper flakes is a wonderful addition to this classic, adding a lively element of heat.


  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound penne pasta
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • ¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.

Reheat the sauce and add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in ½ cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

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Tequila-Mustard-Glazed Chicken Skewers

Tequila has a distinct and powerful taste of its own. This liquor’s profile plays well off tart flavors, most typically lime. This recipe incorporates lime juice, malt vinegar, and dry mustard to balance out the dish. These beautifully marinated chicken skewers will make a tender, zesty addition to tonight’s dinner menu. This recipe from Food & Wine takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes to complete and yields 24 skewers of chicken.


Marinated chicken

  • ½ cup tequila
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into ½-inch-wide strips

Tequila mustard

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup malt vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • Salt

Directions: In a large bowl, combine the tequila, brown sugar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt. Add the chicken, toss to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, water, malt vinegar, honey, tequila, lime juice, dry mustard, coriander, cumin, and chile powder. Cook over low heat, whisking, until thickened, 5 minutes; do not boil. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Stir in the lime zest and season with salt. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Soak 24 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Light a grill. Transfer ½ cup of the mustard to a small bowl. Thread the chicken onto the top third of the skewers; grill over moderate heat, turning, until browned and almost cooked, 8 minutes. Brush the chicken with the reserved ½ cup of mustard and grill until glazed and cooked through. Serve the skewers with the remaining mustard.

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Whiskey Sirloin Steak

This tender sirloin steak is prepared in a slightly sweet whiskey-soy sauce marinade. Preparation takes 10 minutes, and a good marinade should rest for at least 8 hours to ensure the best possible flavors are locked into your meat. The alcohol in the whiskey will burn off, leaving a ruddy, smoky flavor in its wake. Broiling your steak for 15 minutes will result in a perfectly moist, flavor-packed sirloin. This recipe from Taste of Home yields about 4 servings and is ideal for a cook of any skill level.


  • ¼ cup whiskey
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 beef top sirloin steak (1 inch thick and 1 pound)

Directions: In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first five ingredients; add the beef. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and discard marinade. Place beef on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 4 to 6 inches from the heat for 7 to 8 minutes on each side or until meat reaches desired doneness.

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Honey-Rum-Baked Black Beans

Even your side dishes can always use a little kick. The honey in this recipe will give your black beans a touch of extra sweetness, while the addition of rum will incorporate a dark, smoky flavor. Chorizo, a Portuguese sausage, will make them a hearty addition to any home-cooked dinner. Try serving these sweet and savory beans alongside burgers or hot dogs and coleslaw. This recipe from Good Housekeeping takes 3 hours to complete and yields 8 servings.


  • 1 pound dried black beans, picked over
  • 8 ounces dried chorizo, casing removed
  • 1 large (10- to 12-ounce) Spanish onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • ⅓ cup clover honey
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 can (14- to 14½-ounce) lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Directions: In large bowl, place beans and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Soak for 8 hours.

Drain beans; place in 8-quart sauce pot and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer 1 to 1½ hours or until very tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans and place in large bowl.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, cut chorizo, onion, and carrots into small dice. Finely chop garlic.

In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on high. Add chorizo and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Add onion and carrots to oil in pan; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until softened, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Add rum and cook 3 minutes or until reduced by half.

Transfer onion mixture to bowl with beans, along with honey, molasses, brown sugar, broth, barbecue sauce, chorizo, and ⅓ cup cilantro. Mix gently to combine, and stir in ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Transfer mixture to deep 2- to 2½-quart baking dish. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 45 minutes longer or until golden brown on top. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.

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Gin-Soaked Shrimp 

These gin-soaked shrimp make a lovely, refreshing, and unique appetizer for a party or simply as a pre-dinner snack for the family. Although the gin will evaporate during the cooking process, the spirit will leave behind a characteristic flavor, reminiscent of citrus and pine. This crisp accent beautifully complements the savory oil and onion in which the shrimp is cooked. This simple recipe from House and Home takes about 15 minutes to complete and yields 4 to 6 appetizer-sized servings.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped or coarsely grated mild white onion
  • 1 pound peeled raw shrimp, thawed and drained
  • Handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup gin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • A few drops Asian chili oil or hot sauce

Directions: Heat olive oil in large frying pan on medium heat. Cook onion until soft. Add shrimp and cilantro. Cook until shrimp is opaque. Stir in remaining ingredients. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved and gin has mostly evaporated. Serve hot.

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